Broadcast journalism is a fast-paced industry that is constantly in flux, specifically in how outlets are adapting to the new media. There are a number of factors however that govern how broadcasters approach these platforms as well as the inherent guidelines surrounding breaking news. Through Radio New Zealand’s coverage of Don Brash being barred from a Massey University speaking engagement, I will explore the conventions surrounding how audiences are targeted through breaking news.
Don Brash’s barring from Massey University was significant as a breaking news story for a variety of reasons, as it involved reference to an elite individual, especially since he had just recently been in the press regarding freedom of speech. It was a meaningful subject and simple in nature so it was unambiguous what had happened. This story satisfied a variety of news criteria (Harcup & O’Neill, 2001).
As breaking news, this story is inherently of interest to audiences, however, the story must be delivered in a way that appeals to a broadcaster’s key demographic. What must be considered in this case, is that Radio New Zealand (RNZ), unlike commercial broadcasters, is not aiming to secure advertisers to fund its programming. RNZ is obliged under its charter to serve the public interest, uphold freedom of speech while fostering tolerance and understanding promoting diversity and expression (2018).
RNZ defines its live radio audience as being New Zealanders 10 years and over, so in its coverage in the daily news bulletins the language focused on providing a clear and succinct summation of the events and the reasoning of Massey University’s Vice Chancellor for preventing Don Brash from speaking (2018a).
https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thepanel/audio/2018657029/massey-uni-cancels-don-brash-invitation-over-violence-threat [RNZ’s panel discusses venue unavailability in regards to Don Brash’s cancellation from speaking at Massey University]
RNZ’s first in-depth on-air coverage beyond a brief news bulletin was on the Panel with host Jim Mora, known for his work across television and children’s literature (2018b). A host with a diverse background suited for driving conversations in a manner accessible to a wide age range. On the panel on the 7th of August, the day after the news had broken, were writer Clare Delore and actor/director Peter Elliot, both prominent and relevant figures in regards to New Zealand media. During the segment which opened discussion, both Delore and Elliot disagreed with the Vice Chancellor’s decision, advocating for a more open-minded approach to people with strongly opposing views. The pair also suggested that had Brash spoken, not only would students have been able to hear him, but that they would also have the opportunity to refute ideas he put forward leading to potential learning from both sides. Elliot went further to suggest gatekeeping over viewpoints such as Brash’s is against the spirit of free speech. Delore and Elliot both agreed that backing down from hosting Brash played into the continuation of threats of violence against those with views people disagree with. The panel was joined by political journalist Richard Harman during which he strengthened the aforementioned point suggesting that moves to prevent speakers who you strongly disagree with speaking feeds into extremist arguments and action accusing the left of restricting freedom. What is noticeable particularly in this panel discussion is how RNZ is championing freedom of speech and New Zealand’s tolerance for diversity of expression, key to its requirements under their charter (2018). This typifies RNZ’s manner of targeting their audience in the way they present and discuss news.
[RNZ posts a link to their news article on Don brash being barred from Massey University on Twitter (2018, August 6)]
The first platform, outside of RNZ’s bulletins, on which Don Brash’s cancellation was announced came across Twitter. One of the fastest moving social media platforms, and because of its character restrictions forces news outlets to compress stories into summaries or teasers accompanied by links. RNZ’s posted via their official account, the content focusing on Brash’s quote “Orwellian nonsense” in reference to being barred(Twitter,n.d.). This approach favoured accusation and fostered controversy. Despite this story already containing strong news values and being linked to previous public debate of free speech, the way this article was been linked to twitter plays into the public desire to follow controversy (Bockzkwowski & Michelstein, 2013). As with any form of social media, users are likely to share opinions, and by posting strongly worded headlines, RNZ is likely to receive higher engagement and spark conversation. It should also be noted that the Twitter post was minimal in the detail it provided drawing users into click through to the article to find out more. This is a tactic to counter falling audience numbers amongst traditional media and the drive traffic towards their website through continuous exposure across new media (Tandoc and Johnson, 2016).
https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/363534/don-brash-s-talk-to-massey-students-canned [The article concerning Don Brash’s speaking cancellation that was linked to both Twitter and Facebook]
Facebook was only utilised to carry the Brash story the day after it broke. It should be noted although the same story linked on twitter was also published to Facebook, the original link on twitter to the article on the 6th of August was a much-abridged version of what is available now, as the article was updated over the course of the 24hrs after the story had broken. Unlike Twitter, which is a fast-moving hive of constant status updates, Facebook lacks the character limit which restricts longer posts and encourages quick-fire discussion. Facebook’s longer form approach, lends itself to news agencies posting their lengthier and lesseye-catchingg articles, leading to a higher representation of a broadcaster’s material being reposted to Facebook (Franklin,2014). Facebook also encourages more in depth discussion and audience engagement via emoji reactions to posts. It should be noted that RNZ’s decision not to repost their more frugal article to Facebook until it was more in depth was a choice that reflected the understanding of how best to target their audience on that platform.
As a national broadcaster charged with ensuring fair and balanced coverage of news pertinent to New Zealand citizens, Radio New Zealand performs in a manner demonstrates awareness of their audiences and demographic. RNZ is careful to uphold its chartered principles in broadcast, but open minded enough to employ strategy to best engage their audiences across multiple platforms.
Bob Franklin (2014) The Future of Journalism, Journalism Studies, 15:5, 481-499, DOI: 10.1080/1461670X.2014.930254
Harcup, T., & O’Neill, D. (2001). What Is News? Galtung and Ruge revisited. Journalism Studies, 2(2), 261-280. doi:10.1080/14616700120042114
Massey Uni cancels Don Brash invitation over violence threat. (2018, August 06). Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thepanel/audio/2018657029/massey-uni-cancels-don-brash-invitation-over-violence-threat
Radio New Zealand. (2018). The Radio New Zealand Charter. Retrieved August 15, 2018, from https://www.radionz.co.nz/about/charter
Radio New Zealand. (2018a). Audience research. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from http://www.radionz.co.nz/about/audience-research
Radio New Zealand. (2018b). Jim Mora. Retrieved August 16, 2018, from https://www.radionz.co.nz/national/presenters/jim-mora
Twitter. (n.d.) RNZ News. Retrieved from